France will charter two more rescue ships in the English Channel

France will charter two more ships in the English Channel to carry out rescue operations on this maritime route taken by a record number of migrants seeking to reach the English coast, the General Secretariat for the Sea announced on Wednesday. More than 40,000 migrants have arrived in Britain this year after crossing this sea route in small boats, a record and an issue that has plagued Franco-British relations for years.

“Faced with the increase in the number of crossing attempts (…) despite the risks incurred by unsafe boats, the Prime Minister has decided to strengthen the rescue system at sea in the coming weeks”, indicated in a press release. placed under Matignon’s authority.

The arrival of the cold

This reinforcement “is primarily based on the chartering of two additional ships specifically dedicated to this mission, and a requisitioning procedure is foreseen so that the availability of these additional means intended to save lives is as soon as possible”, continued the General Secretariat, led by the former police prefect of Paris Didier Lallement.

The organization justified these additional funds and the timing of the announcement with the “arrival of colder weather” and the “potential for serious accidents” which “increases for migrants using nautical means, putting them at risk on the world’s busiest sea route”.

The use of drones

“The unit will once again see the arrival of aerial drones, which will participate in a better understanding in real time of the maritime situation, especially during attempts to cross several boats simultaneously”, underlines one in the press release.

The announcement comes a year after at least 27 migrants died on November 24, 2021, when their boat sank, the worst tragedy on record in the Channel. In mid-November, the newspaper Le Monde, which claims to have consulted parts of the judicial investigation carried out in Paris on this tragedy, confirmed that the castaways called the French maritime authorities fifteen times to ask for help, in vain.

In a telephone conversation with these maritime authorities, obtained by AFP, one migrant said: “Please help (…) I’m in the water”. “Yes, but you are in English waters sir”, replies his interlocutor. “No, not English waters, French waters, can you please come quickly,” he begs again before the call is cut off.

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